BLACK WATER **** Australia 2007 Dir: Andrew Traucki, David Nerlich. 90 mins
A tidy, suspenseful, three-handed revenge-of-nature thriller that nods to the benchmark for Australian eco-horror (LONG WEEKEND) while joining a prolific 21st century trend for stripped-down survivalist horror stories. Newly pregnant Diana Glenn, her husband (Andy Rodoreda) and younger sister (Maeve Dermody) take a low-rent river tour of the Northern Australian mangrove swamps. A Bloody Great Crocodile capsizes the boat and eats their guide, sending the trio of outsiders scampering to take refuge in the nearby trees and spending the rest of the movie facing the dilemma of how to cross the river without getting eaten.
Co-directors Traucki and Nerlich have fun with JAWS-like p.o.v. underwater shots of vulnerable human limbs but, by using the crocodile sparsely and sustaining a real sense of unpredictability about when it will strike, pull off a couple of superb jump scares. The central trio are convincingly scared and sympathetic as they strive to outwit / outswim the creature in its natural habitat and the filmmakers largely resist the urge to allow the crocodile to act like a horror movie monster. They are also aware of the impact of relatable personal injuries: BLACK WATER avoids overt splatter in favour of cringe-inducing wounds and broken fingers. One harrowing bout of suggested nastiness has a character forced to listen to their loved one being slowly consumed off-camera. This sequence, and an intense nocturnal fight for survival lit only by lightning strikes, are stand-outs in an excellent back-to-basics man vs nature chiller. Traucki returned to the sub-genre later for the first-rate shark movie THE REEF and THE JUNGLE.
Review by Steven West